Good morning Ferran, my name is Davide Oldani

For the first time, the chef from D'O recounts his experience at elBulli: źI arrived in 1999, on board my Fiat 127...╗

07-04-2017

A historic photo, with a young Davide Oldani, in the middle, and Ferran and Albert Adrià. No doubt about the date: it's in the right corner at the bottom - 29th September 1999

«Yes, I worked at elBulli. But I've never told anyone, I won't even put it in the cv. How did you find out? Anyway, it's true». Davide Oldani admits it: we were right, we've flushed him out. It wasn't easy: luck helped, as well as Gianni Revello, a great gourmand.

This is the story. Some time ago we wrote this article : Those who... were with Ferran Adrià. We were sort of tracing a map of the Italian “bullinians”, Adrià's disciples, and interviewed Loretta FanellaStefano BaioccoMoreno CedroniTerry GiacomelloLuca Lacalamita… A few days later Revello called us: «As far as I know, Corrado Fasolato also worked at elBulli, I believe even before those you mentioned. He almost never speaks about it but he told me on a rainy night in Schio». So we called the chef at Spinechile, who confirmed (we'll soon write about it. We wrote about a recent visit here: Magia Spinechile, mago Fasolato). We asked Fasolato: were you among the first Italians at elBulli? «I don't know. Actually, I surely wasn't the first; when I arrived, I found Davide Oldani, he was finishing his internship».

Two menus at elBulli, from 1999: prices were still in Pesetas, of course. Oldani keeps them as a treasure

Two menus at elBulli, from 1999: prices were still in Pesetas, of course. Oldani keeps them as a treasure

Davide Oldani at elBulli? Even those who have been following him for years are surprised. So we asked him directly, and you already know part of the answer.

THE JOURNEY -  «It was in 1999. I really believe I was one of the first Italian chefs to go there, probably the first among those who are most famous today. In those years, people were starting to speak a lot about Ferran Adrià. Soon he would become super famous. One night I ended up chatting with some friends of his. I had received a star with Giannino  in Milan, but I needed a Spanish experience. I knew something important was going on there. I didn't think twice. I asked these friends in common to create a contact. Then one morning I took my car, an old 127 and I embarked this adventure. Some 850 km later, at 30, I found myself in this secluded village, Roses. I looked for a place to sleep and found one in a camping site beside elBulli, in Cala Montjoi. They still write to offer a summer vacation at their place».

JULI SOLER - «I was sleeping in a one square metre bed, more or less. But I just needed to cross the beach and I'd get to elBulli. My first friend was a great man Juli Soler: he knew how to make you feel at ease, he was serious but always hospitable. A few days later it was as if I had always been there! He handed me a dish, told me how to make it: of course, I had a star, but I was the new arrival in Roses. Giving so much responsibility and trust is remarkable, in this context. I believe this is what makes a great professional».

Consommé tagliatelli a la carbonara, dish number 567 in the elBulli catalogue: Oldani recalls it from back in 1999

Consommé tagliatelli a la carbonara, dish number 567 in the elBulli catalogue: Oldani recalls it from back in 1999

EL BULLI - «The atmosphere was fantastic. What struck me the most from the first day was the organisation of the service and the attention to the quality of the ingredients: they had no equal, I've never seen anything similar. I recall some exceptional raw materials: espardeñas , edible flowers, some incredible fish, lots of fruit and vegetables. And the play of textures they sought in dishes. As with the chicken croquette. Or carbonara! It was made in an excellent way, with a reduction of egg, diced pancetta and pasta made by thickening veal broth. Or the famous Bone marrow and caviar...».

ONCE BACK – «I already had experience with Marchesi, Ducasse, Roux, Hermé: completely different from elBulli, where I only stayed a few months, three to be precise. I was almost tempted to stay, but I had planned to return to Italy: they asked me to stay at Roses, I told them I couldn't. I have no regrets: I had developed a fantastic relationship with those at elBulli – Ferran, Albert, Juli».

THE SILENCE - «Why is it that I've never spoken about this experience at Ferran Adrià's? Let's put it this way: as a form of respect. I hold that period dear, it gave me a lot. But it was still an internship. I didn't think it right to boast about it».

Davide Oldani's notes: during the three months at elBulli: he noted down everything, from the dishes (on the left) to how kitchen and dining room were arranged, on the right

Davide Oldani's notes: during the three months at elBulli: he noted down everything, from the dishes (on the left) to how kitchen and dining room were arranged, on the right

MY MEMORY - «The most beautiful memory I have is perhaps of the time where I was right beside Albert Adrià in the pastry workshop preparing with him a brittle made with sugar and pancetta, strawberry ganache and mousse».

THE HERITAGE «Some were highly critical and some still are of the cuisine of Ferran and Albert. Perhaps because they haven't met them and haven't had a chance to discover their dishes. Their taste is still a part of me, in a way... In Roses I learnt that their technique was avantgarde, but they didn't neglect the soul, that is to say the flavour. When I arrived from Milan, I was attracted by the experiments, I imagined beautiful fireworks. The spectacle of creativity and avantgarde was there, but they never neglected the joy of the palate. It was a great lesson».

FERRAN ADRIA’ - «I believe he's a great chef. But my experience, the fact he welcomed me as if I were the most welcome of guests, made me understand he wasn't just a great professional, but a great person too, a very human one. Every time I meet Ferran, I greet him with sincere joy».


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